Mali, West Africa
Political Leader: President Amadou Toumani Touré
Religions: Islam 87%, Traditional 11%, Christianity 1.9%, Other 0.1%
Persecution Ranking: Not Ranked
Number of Terrorist Groups: 1
Acts of Terrorism: 2; Casualties: 0
Percent of Corruption: 72%
% of People in Poverty: 36.1%
Mali, the largest country in West Africa, is bordered by seven other nations. Algeria lies to the north and northeast, Niger to the east, Burkina Faso to the southeast and the Ivory Coast to the south. Senegal and Mauritania border Mali on the west. Mali is shaped a bit like a butterfly, leaning to the northwest, with a much smaller left than right wing. The larger northwestern region of the country, which extends into the Sahara, is almost entirely arid desert or semidesert. In the central region, known as the Sahel, life follows the Niger River’s annual flood cycle, with high water between August and November. In the southwestern area, rainfall and rivers are more plentiful, and this region is marginally more lush than the rest of the country.
Mali’s single most important geographic feature is undoubtedly the great Niger River, which traverses both the Sahel and the southeastern section of the country. The Niger, like the Nile, is both a critical source of sustenance and a major transportation artery―and in this latter capacity it is an excellent venue for boat travel.
Inadequate resources continued to hamper the Malian government’s ability to control its long and porous borders, thus limiting the effectiveness of military patrols and border control measures, according to Country Reports on Terrorism 2007. Mali is currently more threatened by tribal insurgencies than by terrorist threats, but cooperated with United States counterterrorism efforts, and remained one of the largest recipients in the sub-region of military training and assistance through the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership and other United States assistance programs. Northern Mali served as a potential safe haven for terrorists, traffickers, and smugglers due to the region's remoteness, harsh desert climate, and size. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) maintained a regular, small-scale presence, moving essentially without hindrance in the northern part of Malian territory, although it did not maintain any permanent facilities and was constantly on the move.
Islam, the predominant religion in Mali, came to the country as a result of trans-Sahara trade. In the 13th century, Islam began to penetrate western Sudan. After Sundjata, the founder of the Mali Empire, most of the rulers of Mali were Muslim. Islam was introduced by traders who brought not only material goods but also a new religion. Muslims comprise an estimated 90% of the population; the vast majority of Muslims are Sunni. Approximately 1.9% of the population is Christian, and the Christian community is roughly two-thirds Catholic and one-third Protestant. Mali’s constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.
Challenges for Christians:
A United Nations report has listed Mali as the fourth least livable country in the world for 2003. One reason for this notorious status is because Mali has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world at 119 infant deaths per 1,000. Mali is also on the United Nations’ list of least developed countries based on a Gross Domestic Product below $900 per capita, a low quality of life and its economic vulnerability. According to a Christian missionary in Mali: “Muslims have a certain negative idea of the word ‘Christian’ based on what they’ve been taught and based on what they know of the history of Muslim/Christian relations. They do, however, have a positive view of Jesus. For this reason, the handful of Christians north of Kayes in Mali goes by the name of “followers of Jesus.”
- Pray that Mali would have the resources necessary to protect its borders and to monitor movement of terrorists. Pray that Mali would continue to cooperate with other nations in counterterrorism efforts. Pray for God to thwart the plans of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb Pray for the Malian government to have wisdom and resources to stop the work of the terrorist group.
- Pray for God’s protection and healing over Mali’s innocent children, who because of many nomadic practices often do not follow any set inoculation schedules and miss many vaccinations. Pray for healing from the many diseases that take these young lives.
- Pray that the Muslims of Mali will see Jesus is as so much more than a profit who had great healing power, but as God’s only Son who died for their sins so that they might live, and whose grace they desperately need.
- Pray for economic favor and increased prosperity in this devastatingly poor country. Pray that families will find enough food to survive, and that somehow, they realize every good thing comes from God.
- Pray for the Christian missionaries who work tirelessly to reach the lost with the truth of the Gospel.
Sources: 24-7 Prayer, Operation World, CIA Factbook, Wikipedia, International Religious Freedom Report 2007, Country Reports on Terrorism 2007, Geographia.com, mali.pwnet.org, The Luke Society